Nigeria’s Kwara Falcons out of BAL playoff contention, Stade Malien shock REG

DAKAR, SENEGAL — Jean Jacques Boissy starred with 22 points as Sahara Conference hosts AS Douanes beat Kwara Falcons 75-68 at Dakar Arena in the Basketball Africa League (BAL), officially ending the Nigerian side’s already faint playoff hopes.

Kwara got the game off to a strong start, but the home crowd helped Douanes rally back and they led 41-35 at half-time. By the end of the third quarter, they had pulled away and led 59-47.

Successive blocks by Mouhamadou Diagne had the crowd in a frenzy as Douanes pulled clear early in the fourth quarter, but Kwara’s late comeback saw them finish the game with a more respectable scoreline.

In the mixed zone after the game, Michael Oriakhi lamented his side’s unpreparedness heading into this tournament.

“I think in Nigeria, actually need to play more games in season… The more games you play, the more you get better,” he said.

“Going back now, we are going to have more games and we should come back now with a better team.”

Douanes guard Chris Crawford paid tribute to the local crowd and players in the mixed zone, saying: “I feel like we had a good game as a unit. I love the way we came.

“I love the way the fans came out to support us and the young guys and the other guys are getting their groove and that’s what I like the most.”

Earlier, Stade Malien pulled off an unlikely 84-64 win over Sahara Conference leaders Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in one of the Basketball Africa League’s (BAL’s) biggest upsets so far, keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.

Stade Malien, in search of their second win of the tournament, raced into a 22-12 lead by the end of the first quarter over the soon-to-be hosts of the playoffs in Kigali. So far, REG are the only team to have officially qualified.

Adonis Filer helped REG stay in contention. Of his 19 points, 13 were scored in the first half. By half-time, Stade Malien’s lead had been cut to 37-32.

Stade Malien started the second half as they did the first and extended their lead to 55-41. Although they were pegged back to 60-49 by the end of the third quarter, they raced away in the fourth to take the game 84-64.

Coach Kaba Kanté, who had expressed disappointment with his side’s passing in their defeat to AS Douanes, was pleased with the response he received.

“We spoke about ball distribution and I think it was understood that the boys need to pass the ball better… Everybody had the ball at one point,” Kanté said in his post-match press conference.

Three of his players ended up with double figures as Souleymane Berthe scored 23 points, Aliou Diarra 20 and Kelvin Amayo 14.

Kanté’s opposite number, REG’s Dean Murray, acknowledged: “We knew they were going to play hard today and come right at us. They’re a strong team – offensive rebounding, pushing the ball up the floor. Right from the beginning, they had us on our heels.”

REG have three wins from four games, while Douanes and Stade Malien are level with Ivory Coast’s ABC Fighters and Tunisia’s US Monastir on two wins. ABC and Monastir each have a game in hand.

Kwara, meanwhile, will look to end their winless run with a consolation victory over ABC on Monday in their final BAL game this year.

The BAL airs on ESPN’s channels in Africa. Follow the schedule and scores here.

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